Growing up, our vacations were road trips to visit family in Toronto or Virginia. Six hours of sitting side-by-side-by-side with siblings, parents and, sometimes, my grandmother—often in a sedan. All of us listening to 1) the same radio station, unhappily; 2) my dad calling every other driver a bastard, and 3) each other repeatedly inquiring how much longer we had to go. So I mostly have repressed the details of these dreadful drives (just kidding, Mom! Love you, Dad!)—but I’m pretty sure that road food meant stopping, halfway, at a McDonald’s in Buffalo or Breezewood.
Now, as a parent, the family roadtrips I plan—to visit my parents, or my husband’s—are double, even triple, the length of those I took as a kid. We allow videos, received happily; we travel in a giant van; and I pack plenty of road food and eating supplies, like this:
Everyone brings a water bottle. And each individual is responsible for refilling it, as needed, at stops.
Pack sandwiches on good bread. We do turkey, cheese and mustard (with a PB&J for our pickier kid) on whole-grain bread, wrap them in aluminum foil and store them in a small cooler. I’m typically not a sandwich-for-lunch person but there’s nothing better on the road. Packing our own saves money, time—and us from having to settle for fast food, or one of those pre-made sandwiches that always seems weirdly cold and soggy.
Rely on ready-to-eat veggies: We like carrots, cherry tomatoes and snap peas. My kids never eat more vegetables than when they’re captive in a van, hungry, with few other options.
Bring whole fruits that travel well. Apples are great, and pears and grapes and clementines. I always bring a big Ziploc bag to contain cores and peels without mess.
Supplement with snacks. I usually bring one salty and one sweet. Pretzels and Pirate’s Booty are popular with our crew. Often, I pre-portion single servings into baggies (so I don’t house the whole big bag). I also bring two stainless steel bowls, with lids, for easier eating by kids. For a sweet, I pack my go-to homemade chocolate-chip (or leftover [fill in the last holiday] candy) cookies, which I mostly always have stashed in the freezer.
Coffee stops are fair game. Re-caffeinating on the road, in our book, is simply being a responsible driver—and navigator. Safe travels!